William de Key v. Nicholas Coorn, 1644

William de Key (under the power of attorney for Govert Loockermans) v. Nicholas Coorn October 6, 1644

Public Property — Waterways & Right of Public Passage

This case illustrates the tensions between the van Rensselaer patroonship and the Dutch West India Company. In the summer of 1644, merchant Govert Loockermans was returning to New Amsterdam from a trading trip to Fort Orange (Albany) when his sloop, the Good Hope, passed the Van Rensselaer fort on Beeren Island. Nicholas Coorn, the vice-commander of the patroonship, hailed the sloop and ordered her to lower her colors. When Loockermans asked for whom the colors were to be lowered, Coorn replied “for patroon Van Rensselaer.” Loockermans responded that he did not strike the flag “for any individual save the Prince of Orange and the lords of the Dutch West India Company.” Coorn then fired several cannon shots at the sloop, one of which damaged the royal flag flying on the Good Hope. Coorn was summoned before the Court of the Director and Council on October 6, 1644. According to the Council Minutes (4 Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State 92), Fiscael Van der Huyghens argued that the patroon did not have control of those waters, while Coorn maintained the waters were within the bounds of the patroonship. The court ordered Coorn to pay damages and forbade him, under penalty of corporal punishment, from repeating the offence.

A Sample of Cases Decided by the New Netherland Court of Justice

Contract Law

Nicholas Stevenson and William Hallet, sailors, v. John Brett, September 30, 1651. In this action for wages owed, the Court held that the plaintiff sailors had completed their term of engagement upon arriving in New Netherland, and they could not be compelled to make another voyage northward in an open yacht in winter. Judgment was awarded to the plaintiff sailors.

Jansen v. Chambers, January 5, 1662. Dirck Jansen of Oldenburgh sued Thomas Chambers for expenses incurred in carrying dispatches from the Esopus to New Amsterdam at the time of the Indian war. Judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Military Law

Fiscael v. Philip Geraerdy, March 27, 1642. This case involved a soldier who had been absent from the guard without leave. He was found guilty and sentenced to ride the wooden horse during parade with a pitcher in one hand and a drawn sword in the other. This sentence, a form of torture, could lead to permanent disability.

Fiscael v. John Haes, February 1, 1644. Defendant Haes admitted that he had (1) shot a hog, (2) stolen a gun from David Pietersen (de Vries), and (3) when Lawrence the Norman was wounded by the Indians, Haes had pulled off Lawrence’s shoes and sold them for three guilders. The prisoner was pardoned because he was a soldier serving in the ongoing campaign (the Indian War) on condition that he gave security for the damage, and for his future good behavior. The court further ordered that if he should be found guilty again of similar crimes, he would be hanged without mercy.

Criminal Law

Fiscael v. Grever and Roseboom, et al., January 19, 1655. Hendrick Jansen Grever, Martin Roseboom and some others had cut up and burned a number of stakes they had taken from the city palisades. Defendants were prosecuted for this act but the Court ordered that, considering the severe cold weather that had been the cause of this offense, the prisoners should be released on condition that they cut and haul 100 palisades, in lieu of those they burned.

Religion — Freedom & Repression

Fiscael v. William Hallet, Sheriff of Vlissingen (Flushing), November 8, 1656. This case is an example of the religious repression prevalent during the Stuyvesant administration. William Hallet was found guilty of allowing Baptist worship in his house, contrary to law. The Court ordered that he be removed from office and banished from New Netherland. It also ordered that he pay a fine of £50 Flemish and remain in prison until the fine was paid.

D’Andrada, et al. v. Burgomasters of New Amsterdam, April 21, 1657. In this petition, Salvador d’Andrada and other Jews complained that the Burgomasters of New Amsterdam had refused to admit them to the right of citizenship. The Court at the instruction of the Company, ordered the Burgomasters to admit the Jews to such privilege.

Magistrates of Vlissingen (Flushing) v. John Bowne, August 24, 1662. Bowne was accused of holding meetings every Sunday of “that abominable sect called Quakers, of which the majority of the inhabitants are followers.” He was found guilty and fined.

Magistrates of Gravesend v. John Tilton and Mary Tilton, September 19, 1662. John and Mary Tilton of Gravesend were prosecuted for attending Quaker meetings and harboring persons of that denomination. They were found guilty and on October 5, 1662 were sentenced to banishment.


Van Oldenburgh v. Pluvier, September 29, 1661. In this case involving both slavery and contracts, Dirck Jansen van Oldenburgh sought payment of 150 pieces of eight, being the price of the negro wo December 28, 1662. man he imported on the order of Cornelis Pluvier. The Court ordered the defendant to pay the money owed to the plaintiff.

Three Negro Women Slaves, December 28, 1662. A petition of three female slaves to be manumitted was granted on condition that one of the three shall come weekly to do the director-general’s housework.

Famous & Sensational

Fiscael v. Dame Gerritse, March 20, 1664. Dame Gerritse, “who is famous for being a scold,” was accused of abusing the officer who had seized her son’s gun while he was shooting pigeons on Sunday, March 27, 1664. The Court fined Gerritse 12 guilders and costs.


Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan. The New Netherland Register

Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan. History of New Netherland (1848)

Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, N.Y.: Dutch manuscripts, 1630-64 (1865)

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